The Happy Pointlessness of Life

CalvaryI’ve notice how personal reading is for me — and I figure for most people. I don’t much read New Republic. Instead, I read Brian Beutler and Elizabeth Bruenig. I’m not so much interested in being informed, because I get that by reading more general things. But I’m interested in what these people have to say. And there isn’t much reason for it. It’s a question of trust or identity. They are people who I can imagine having over for dinner without wanting to murder them. Something like that.

I wonder if it is the same way around here. I assume that it is. The point cannot be to learn about the world, but to learn about what I think of the world. And that’s fine. I do have an outlook on life that isn’t totally unworthy of listening to. I try to be something slightly more than what you will read elsewhere. And there are things — generally related to puppets or Don Quixote — that you won’t read anywhere else. But it does create a bit of a problem when I get quite personal. I don’t write to get a reaction. I write because that is what I do. It is the way that I think about things — the way that I process the world.

After being away from home for five days, I find that I am totally out of sorts. I’ve heard this about cats. They hate it when their worlds are upset. If you do so much as move the couch, they freak out. I feel that way. I hate for my routine to be upset. And it was many times this last week. First there was a day wasted driving. Then I had to work in an unfamiliar environment that worked okay — but not great. And then there was the drive back. And ever since, I’ve been filled with debilitating anxiety.

If I could wed this person I am today with the energetic and happy person I expect to soon be, that would be something: to take joy in the activities of life, even while knowing that it is pointless and that it does matter if I am here tomorrow to continue on with the happy pointlessness of life.

This morning, rather than work, I put on Calvary. When I first watched it, I wrote, Calvary and the Lost Art of Forgiveness. As you can tell from that review, I saw that film in a hopeful way. But this time, it seemed like an allegory of hell. I had noticed this originally, “If he isn’t killed with a bullet to the head, he will be killed with a thousand cuts.” The denouement seems like the greatest act of kindness in the film. The world is evil. It is not surprising that the early Christians would come up with the idea of original sin.

But where does that leave an atheist like myself? I don’t go in for the “thoughtless cynicism” of the townspeople. And I certainly don’t think that the murder of Father James in “Calvary” does a damned thing to fix the problem. Even more, if you look to the Bible, what happened to Judas Iscariot? By church tradition, he either killed himself or was otherwise killed gruesomely. It’s a contradiction, right? In order for Jesus to wash away our sins, he had to be murdered, but Christians hate Judas for facilitating their salvation. If I were a Christian, I would think it Judas who truly suffered (and continues to suffer) for our sins.

It’s all brain chemistry, of course. Whether we feel good or bad, it is just the chemicals swimming around our bodies. Some days I reflect that today would be a very bad day to die. That, I suppose is the illusion. Because those are the days that I want to get things done. Self-actualization is a happy delusion — one I hope to get back in the next couple of days. But I think the way I feel today is much more clear-eyed. I don’t want to die. I just don’t especially care. If I could wed this person I am today with the energetic and happy person I expect to soon be, that would be something: to take joy in the activities of life, even while knowing that it is pointless and that it doesn’t matter if I am here tomorrow to continue on with the happy pointlessness of life.

23 thoughts on “The Happy Pointlessness of Life

    • You make it sound so awful! I just mean a Zen sense on non-attachment to life. And I’m feeling much more pro-tomorrow than I was yesterday.

  1. Having people over to dinner without wanting to murder them? What is that like?

    I kid, I kid. I am glad you are feeling slightly better though.

    • Thank you. I do still question the meaning of it all. But on the plus side, I got fresh milk for my tea.

        • That’s one way of looking at it. I’m skeptical. But for the first night since I got back, I plan to sleep in my bed rather than my office couch. That strikes me as a very positive life change.

          • NO. When you sleep on your office couch, you are busy solving a crime which keeps all the best minds of local police baffled, so much that they’re willing to finger the wrong person whom you know (on a hunch) is innocent and will never be convicted, as all the police have is motive and circumstantial evidence.

            And doing this will let the real killer go scot-free.

            You’ve got to sleep on the office couch. That’s when the guy riddled with bullet holes bangs on the door at 4AM, saying, “the killer is . . . the killer is . . . ” before collapsing. At first it’ll seem like another dead end, then your partner (Elizabeth) will use her perceptive skills to notice the murdered man’s shoelaces aren’t usually the style of fabric seen in that brand. Turns out there’s only one place where those shoelaces are made. It’s what both of you feared would be true, yet you have to go there.

            Maybe not for justice. Maybe not for revenge. But you both have to know the truth, risk be damned.

            However, before you go, you need a good method for cooking succulent turkey — you can’t go undercover without knowing how to be turkey wizards. “There’s one bastard we can call.” “My God not him, he’s wanted for over-typing on at least two blog sites under different user_ID aliases.” “Dammit, ignore your pride! We need turkey tips and need them in the dead of night! Who else will be awake? And can you really trust those goddamn Googles searches? Half of them are pointers from pseudo-redneck-faker cooking celebrities who pimp their Real America Country/Family bonafides, for Chrissakes! We need real turkey info and need it now!”

            “Plus Astrodome arcana!”

            “God yes, that more than anything! That’s the key!” “But does he owe us a favor?” “He owes everyone a favor. That’s why he knows all the dark secrets . . . especially of cooking perfect turkey, that apparently tasteless hunk of meat.”

            Sleeping on office couches solves everything.

            • That was brilliant — kind of The Big Sleep meets What’s Up, Tiger Lily? But I did sleep in bed last night. I can’t say I slept any better. I did have an interesting dream about talking to Dean Baker in a bar, but he was more interested in flirting with some young women. So I went away because I didn’t want to bother him. And then I went off in search of turkey basting tips…

              • Fucking Baker, what a turncoat.

                Here is the dumbest ever “sleeping in the office” (kind of) story.

                So I was scouting locations for an indie film I was going to make. I’d been driving long days around ghost towns in Eastern Oregon, and I couldn’t keep driving. I pulled off the road to sleep.

                In the mountains. In the winter.

                I woke up after a few hours when it got super-cold. I still wasn’t ready to drive, so I turned the engine on, warmed up the vehicle for ten minutes, turned the engine off and went back to sleep.

                This kept happening. Each time I went to sleep, I told myself, “next time I wake up, I’ll be ready to drive.” Each time I warmed the car up and went back to sleep.

                Except when I fell asleep with the engine running and ran out of gas.

                Fortunately I woke up before I froze, and was able to push the car back onto the highway. At that point it’s turn on the lights, hope the battery doesn’t die, and coast downhill hoping for an open gas station. I found one about 15 miles away.

                Like I said, really dumb. And there wasn’t even any alcohol involved!

                • I must say, you’ve been damned amusing the last couple of days. I like the “next time” aspect of it. That reminds me of myself. It’s a good thing it wasn’t 50 years earlier, or you probably would have died from CO.

                  • I aim to amuse. Unfortunately the ability wanes and waxes. I can’t control it. People who write humor on a regular basis astound me.

                    I’ve gotten away with so much stupidity in my life I think I’ve racked up a lot of negative Zen energy or something.

                  • Women, plural, not woman, singular! The bastard should have invited Frank over and helped him flirt, too! Be a wingman, Baker! Dick.

          • Man, you really are obsessed with work. Even I never slept at the office even when working 80 hours a week.

              • If the couch is comfy why would you want to? But I know what you mean by wanting to stay in your comfort zone.

                    • Ha! That’s nothing. The main thing about my anxiety is that I don’t want to move. So I will put up with quite a lot to stay in one place. I really should be medicated. But that would require going to a doctor, which would require, you know, going outside…

                    • Alas, we are not in France where the doctor can come to you. But then you have the problem of getting the meds from the pharmacy…

                      Unfortunate you don’t have anyone to assist you in getting this sort of thing taken care of. :(

                    • Well, with the rain will come a greater willingness for me to go outside. I seem to be doing fine. Or fine-ish.

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